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Voice Input / Output Computer for College Student

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Jackie, now nearing graduation from high school, first encountered difficulty with reading and keeping up with her classmates in the second grade. Her mother suspected that there could be a learning disability (LD), however her teacher minimized the problem explaining she was just a late bloomer. She struggled in each grade as she progressed through school. By fourth grade she had reached only a first grade reading level, and testing finally confirmed Jackie had learning disabilities, characterized by dyslexia, dysnomia, and deficits in auditory discrimination.

As is common for many persons with learning disabilities, Jackie has above-average intelligence but her ability to master basic skills was impaired, especially in reading, writing and math. She was quickly overwhelmed by the technical language in science textbooks and in math, she would make dyslexic-like errors such as dropping negative signs. Her writing skills in fourth grade were "non-existent," according to Jackie.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) was developed. With support from her mother and a tutor experienced in helping children with learning disabilities, Jackie began developing other ways to learn, other ways to get her work done. Sheryl Burgstahler, Assistant Director from Project DO-IT, (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) helped Jackie discover an assortment of AT resources to accommodate her areas of difficulty.


1.A speech output system was purchased. The scan/read software package Kurzweil 3000 combines scanning/OCR and synthesized speech output to increase reading speed and comprehension. Jackie can now read virtually any scanned document or other electronic file on her computer or the Internet using high quality synthesized speech. The reading speed is adjustable and words are highlighted in a contrasting color, making tracking easier. New or unfamiliar words can be defined using an electronic dictionary, or broken down into syllables. The Kurzweil 3000 speech output system costs $1900. Visit

2.A scanner is used in conjunction with the speech output system, as noted above. Scanners can be found for under $150 at office supply stores.

3.Speak recognition software, in this case Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional, allows Jackie to dictate reports and other documents, send email and work on the Internet.

4.Note takers and textbooks on tape are provided by the school system. This reduces the amount of material to be scanned and read by the speech output system, and allows her to study at school during study halls and breaks. Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional, Version 6, speech recognition software, is available for $525. Visit

5.Low-tech aids, such as a day planner, monthly calendar and color-coded folders and binders, are also useful organization tools.


This case study was originally documented by Tech Connections, a NIDRR-funded collaboration between United Cerebral Palsy Associations (UCP), the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at Georgia Tech (CATEA), and the Southeast Disability Business Technical Assistance Center (SE DBTAC).